Update on the latest news, sports, business and entertainment:

March 20, 2017 - 6:54 pm

TRUMP-RUSSIA-FBI

FBI chief confirms probe of Russia contacts

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI director confirms that the agency is looking into possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of Donald Trump.

It's part of a broader probe of Russian interference in last year's presidential election.

James Comey spoke at the start of a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers told the panel that the intelligence community stands behind its January assessment that it is highly confident Russia interfered in the 2016 election with the goal of electing Trump.

In a Monday morning tweet, Trump blamed Democrats for the investigation into his contacts and said the House intelligence committee should be focus on investigating leaks.

TRUMP-RUSSIA

White House downplays role of two former aides

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is distancing itself from two former senior members of Donald Trump's team, amid an FBI investigation into possible connections between Trump "associates" and Russia.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday referred to Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, as a "volunteer of the campaign." And he said Paul Manafort, who ran Trump's campaign leading up to the Republican National Convention, "played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time."

Flynn resigned from the White House last month after he was found to have misled senior members of the administration about his contacts with Russia's top diplomat to the U.S.

Manafort resigned from Trump's campaign last summer following allegations of contacts with Russian intelligence officials.

TRUMP-WIRETAP-FBI

Comey knocks down Trump's wiretap claim

WASHINGTON (AP) — FBI Director James Comey is the latest government official to reject President Donald Trump's claims that he was wiretapped by Barack Obama.

Testifying to a House panel today, Comey said, "I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI."

Comey says no individual can order surveillance of an American. He says courts grant this permission after a rigorous application process.

He testified along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, who also disputed allegations that surfaced last year that British intelligence services were involved in wiretapping of Trump.

Earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer referred to unsubstantiated allegations made by a Fox News analyst that GCHQ, the British electronic intelligence agency, had helped Obama wiretap Trump. The British intelligence agency flatly denied it happened.

TRUMP-RUSSIA-MANAFORT

Manafort says he had 'no role' in DNC hack

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is defending himself against suggestions he played a role in Russia's efforts to interfere with the U.S. presidential campaign.

Manafort says in a statement that he had "no role or involvement" in the cyber hack of the Democratic National Committee and disclosure of stolen emails. He says he's never spoken to any Russian officials or others who claimed to be involved in the attack.

Manafort says there is "constant scrutiny and innuendo" but "no facts" backing up allegations. He says he's disappointed anyone would legitimize attempts to discredit him and President Donald Trump's election.

Manafort resigned from Trump's campaign amid revelations his firm had lobbied for a pro-Russian party in Ukraine. His name came up repeatedly during a House intelligence committee hearing Monday.

TRUMP-BUDGET

Spicer defends proposed cuts, Trump's trips

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is defending proposed cuts to popular federal programs like Meals on Wheels amid President Donald Trump's taxpayer-funded trips to his Florida beach resort.

Spokesman Sean Spicer said that "where ever the president goes, (he) carries the apparatus of the White House."

Meals on Wheels, the popular service that provides food to the elderly, faces a sharp funding cut under Trump's budget proposal, drawing bipartisan criticism.

The exact amount of the cut is unknown, but budget director Mick Mulvaney says the government "can't spend money on programs just because they sound good."

Spicer says that there are "false narratives" being reported about the nature of budget cuts to the Meals on Wheels program.

He adds, "only in Washington" do people judge success "by how much money you throw at the problem."

US-CUBA-MIGRANTS

Cubans still trying to reach US by sea despite rule change

MIAMI (AP) — Cubans are still making risky sea journeys to the U.S. despite the end of a policy that allowed them to stay if they made it to American soil.

The U.S. Coast Guard says it intercepted 65 Cubans trying to reach Florida or Puerto Rico since Jan. 12. That's when former President Barack Obama ended the so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy as part of the normalization of relations with Cuba.

The change means Cubans are no longer generally granted the right to stay upon reaching the U.S. Now they must have a visa or prove a credible fear of persecution like migrants from other countries.

The Coast Guard had no statistics Monday for the same period in 2016. The agency caught nearly 2,000 in the three months before the change.

AIRPLANE SECURITY-LAPTOPS

Some electronics to be banned on some US-bound flights

WASHINGTON (AP) — Royal Jordanian Airlines is advising passengers that laptops, iPads, cameras and other electronics won't be allowed in carry-on luggage for U.S.-bound flights starting Tuesday.

The airline says in a tweet that cellphones and medical devices are excluded from the ban. Everything else, the airline says, will need to be packed in checked luggage.

The U.S. Homeland Security Department is declining to comment.

It was unclear Monday how long the ban will be in place or what prompted it.

WHITE HOUSE-SECURITY BREACHES

Man arrested at White House says he's telepathic

WASHINGTON (AP) — A man who drove to a security checkpoint near the White House in a stolen car and was arrested after stating "there's a bomb in the trunk," later told authorities that the object in the trunk was an asteroid and that he communicates telepathically with the president.

According to a court document filed Monday, 29-year-old Sean Patrick Keoughan of Roanoke, Virginia, approached the checkpoint at 10 p.m. Saturday and said he had a meeting with President Donald Trump. Officers found no record for a meeting and Keoughan left. He approached again at 11 p.m. and made the statement about the bomb.

Keoughan was arrested and has been charged with threatening and conveying false information concerning the use of an explosive. The charge is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Prosecutors said in a statement that Keoughan was ordered held in jail until a hearing Thursday. A mental health screening was also ordered. Keoughan's attorney, Dani Jahn, a federal public defender, declined to comment when reached by telephone Monday afternoon.

BOY KILLED-LOUISIANA SHOOTING

UPDATE: Police officer testifies as prosecution witness

MARKSVILLE, La. (AP) — A police officer who brandished his gun at the scene of a 6-year-old boy's fatal shooting in Louisiana says he didn't join two other officers in shooting at a car carrying the boy because he didn't fear for his life.

Marksville Police Lt. Kenneth Parnell was a witness for the prosecution Monday at the murder trial of Derrick Stafford, one of two deputy city marshals charged in the November 2015 shooting death of Jeremy Mardis.

Parnell's body camera captured the shooting and its bloody aftermath. Parnell acknowledged telling investigators he pulled his gun out of concern for "officer safety." Stafford's attorneys claim he acted in self-defense when he shot at the car driven by Mardis' father, Christopher Few, after a 2 mile chase.

Trial is scheduled to continue Tuesday.

VARIETY POWER OF WOMEN

Variety to honor Jessica Chastain, Chelsea Clinton, others

NEW YORK (AP) — Jessica Chastain, Chelsea Clinton, Gayle King, Blake Lively, Audra McDonald and Viacom vice chairwoman Shari Redstone are being recognized by Variety at its Power of Women: New York luncheon.

The Hollywood trade publication announced Monday that the six women will be honored April 21 at the Cipriani restaurant in New York. "Saturday Night Live" star Vanessa Bayer will host the private event.

The honorees will appear on the cover of Variety's April 18 issue.

Now in its fourth year, the Power of Women: New York event celebrates the humanitarian efforts of the city's female leaders in entertainment, media and politics.

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